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A rapid assessment process for determining potential wildlife, fish and plant linkages for highways

  • Author(s): Ruediger, William
  • Lloyd, John
  • Wall, Robin
  • et al.
Abstract

The authors developed and tested a rapid assessment fish and wildlife linkage process on Highway 93 in Western Montana. Highway 93 is a north-south route that traverses remote high mountain ranges and intensively managed and settled valleys from Canada to Idaho. Twenty-nine species were analyzed including large carnivores such as grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lion and wolves, five ungulates, numerous species of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants and fish (including bull trout and cutthroat trout). The rapid assessment process uses readily-available public geographic information system data on vegetation, habitats, wildlife, fish, road kill, rare plant communities, topography, hydrology, land ownership patterns, existing conservation easements and point data on special habitats and species occurrences. An interagency group of local wildlife and fish experts was able to review approximately 200 miles of the 290-mile corridor in less than two days. Forty-eight potential wildlife and fish linkage areas were mapped and reported by milepost. The linkage areas are species and location specific. Some wildlife linkage areas were identified primarily from high vehicle collision rates with large ungulates (highway safety). The process is designed as a mid-scale analysis. It has value for initial determination of wildlife and fish linkage areas, potential wildlife and fish highway crossings, identification of key areas for wildlife and fish mitigation, potential areas for open space, conservations easements or land adjustments to benefit wildlife, fish and plant habitats. Involvement included county, state, federal agencies and non-profit conservation interests. Use of the process could substantially improve wildlife and fish coordination with highway planning throughout the United States and Canada. The process is cost effective, fast and accurate

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